Second term US defense secretaries


in Bombs and rockets, Politics, Psychology, Security

Finally, and very subjectively, there is an inauspicious storyline surrounding second-term secretaries of defense: none has ever finished his second term, each having been asked by the president to leave before his term was over. I believe that this is not coincidence; that there is something about this particular job that causes it to go sour before eight years elapse. Perhaps it is the pressure of signing the deployment orders that send our military personnel on dangerous missions from which they might not return. (I always approached this signing in a highly personal way, trying to understand how things could go wrong, and how military families would be affected; to keep a close personal tie to this awesome decision, I insisted on using my real signature – no auto-signing.) Perhaps it is the highly emotional meetings with families of soldiers killed while performing a mission at your direction. Or perhaps it is the tendency to catch “Potomac fever” – the affliction that, in time, leads defense secretaries to believe that all the attention they are getting is because of who they are, rather than the position they hold, and sometimes fostering an inability to maintain a sense of proportion while dealing with the enormous power they exercise. Whichever of these reasons – or combinations of reasons – is the culprit, the history is compelling.

Perry, William. My Journey at the Nuclear Brink. Stanford Security Studies. 2015. p. 142 (paperback)

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